JEDDAH – The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt provide examples of largely peaceful transitions of power after decades of unflinching authoritarian rule. Yet change in these and other Arab countries caught the world by surprise. Talk of an “Arab Spring” has dominated Western media and political debate for months now. Many Muslims living in the West are also watching events in the region closely, hoping that their co-religionists will soon enjoy greater rights, freedoms, and protections under the rule of law, much as they have done for many decades.
VIRGINIA BEACH – The problem of long-term energy sources has been drifting towards crisis for decades. Indeed, the catastrophes in Japan might finally achieve what decades of conflict in the Middle East have not: compel governments to invest in the research required to develop viable energy alternatives.
NEW YORK – After Saddam Hussein’s fall, the United States successfully pressed creditors to write off much of Iraq ’s external debt. Senior American officials, including Paul Wolfowitz, later President of the World Bank, argued that the Iraqi people should not be saddled with obligations that the dictator contracted in order to enrich himself and oppress his subjects. Citing a long-standing doctrine in international law, advocates of a write-off claimed that Iraq ’s debt was “odious.” As a result, the creditors were no longer protected under global legal rules.
NEW YORK – Many factors underlay the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East : decades of corrupt and authoritarian rule, increasingly literate and digitally-connected societies, and skyrocketing world food prices. To top it off, throughout the Middle East (as well as Sub-Saharan Africa and most of South Asia ), rapid population growth is fueling enormous demographic pressures.
SANAA – When Yemen ’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered his military on March 18 to fire on peaceful protesters calling for his resignation, he sealed his fate. A wave of military, government, and diplomatic defections, led by his long-time ally First Armored Brigade Commander General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, rocked his regime.
OXFORD – The forces that drove the growth of European and North American cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are now driving urbanization in Brazil , China , India , Mexico , Russia , and other emerging-market countries. Because the growth of these cities has been accelerated and magnified by productive technologies, rapid internal migration, and high net reproduction rates, many have reached unprecedented sizes at breathless speed. Indeed, all but three of the world’s 20 largest cities are in emerging markets.
TOKYO – The tsunami raced through the town at eight meters per second, the speed of a gold-medal sprinter. The wave’s height reached 15 meters, towering above even the highest pole-vault bars. Ships were heaved onto hills, and cars floated like boats. After the wave passed, a chaotic mountain of debris was all that was left of Kamaishi , Japan ’s oldest steel-manufacturing town, in Iwate prefecture. It looked like the aftermath of the firebombing of Tokyo , or like Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs fell.
MELBOURNE – The international military intervention in Libya is not about bombing for democracy or for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s head – let alone keeping oil prices down or profits up. Legally, morally, politically, and militarily, it has only one justification: protecting Libyans from the kind of murderous harm that Qaddafi inflicted on unarmed protestors four weeks ago; has continued to inflict on those who oppose him in the areas that his forces control; and has promised to inflict on his opponents in Benghazi and other rebel-held territory.
PARIS – In 2003, France , under President Jacques Chirac, took the lead in opposing America ’s planned invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq . French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin’s flamboyant speech at the United Nations encapsulated the “spirit of resistance” against what proved to be a dangerous adventure. In 2011, under President Nicolas Sarkozy, France has again taken a highly visible stand on a question of war and peace, except that now the French, together with the British, are leading the fight to protect Libya ’s people from their erratic, brutal leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
MEXICO CITY – US President Barack Obama’s current swing through Latin America will probably be short on substance, long on rhetorical flourishes and symbolism, and may include a few announcements affecting American business in the region. More importantly, he will see real success stories, and how Latin America as a whole has changed.